Celebrity Guest Chefs

Justin Burdett


Justin Burdett, a Georgia native, began his culinary career at a very young age in his grandmother’s kitchen who was busy raising 5 children by herself. Her southern style made it easier for Justin to begin working at One’s BBQ at the age of 15. From there he worked his way exploring and expanding his flair for farm-to-table menus. “Communities have been preparing farm-to-table meals for centuries. It’s not a style and it’s not new. For most it was out of necessity. You cook what’s local and you cook what’s in season. I’ve adopted it as a philosophy because it makes sense and it’s sustainable. My style on the other hand is what I call Modern Southern. You can be any kind of chef, Indian, French and still be driven by the philosophy of farm-to-table. It’s not a trend. It’s a purposeful way of sourcing and creating dishes.”

As a self-taught chef, he fine-tuned his presentation skills at Richmond Hill In then took Miller Union in Atlanta from a start-up restaurant to world-renowned. From there, he worked under famed chef Hugh Acheson in Athens 5 & 10 taking critical skills and creative sourcing from it. He showed off the fruits of his labor on television when he made “nose-to-tail rabbit dish” on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman, then later defeating his competitors on the Food Network’s hit show Chopped. He has been titled 2013’s Carolina Rising Star Award, Food and Wine’s “Top 10 Chefs in the Southeast” and has been invited to cook at the Charleston Wine & Food Festival and at the James Beard House in New York City. He and his wife recently moved to Highlands, North Carolina where he is the Executive Chef of Ruka’s Table.

Whitney Otawka



Whitney Otawka is the Culinary Director of The Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island. Her leap into the culinary world began in a French creperie in Oakland, California. Here she discovered her innate discipline and rigor, and a passion that would allow her to thrive in the grueling environment of a restaurant kitchen.

She continued her culinary learning in restaurants in San Francisco and San Diego. She moved to Athens, Georgia in 2005, where she quickly worked her way up to Sous Chef of 5&10 under Chef Hugh Acheson. For part of her tenure, she simultaneously worked as Chef de Partie of Linton Hopkins’ Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta. During her years at 5&10, she took time out to hold numerous stages in New York’s finest restaurants such as Per Se, Le Bernardin, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

In 2010 Whitney moved on to a unique opportunity in coastal Georgia at the prestigious Greyfield Inn of Cumberland Island, where she served as Executive Chef leaving to film Top Chef Season 9 in Texas. In 2012 she was awarded at Rising Star Chef award for Atlanta while at the helm of Farm 255 in Athens Georgia. Her recipes have been published in The New York Times, Garden & Gun, Southern Living, and The Local Palate. You can follow her adventures and at www.whitneyotawka.com

Local Celebrity Chefs:

Griffin Buffkin and Harrison Sapp - Southern Soul BBQ

griffin and harrison head shotGriffin Bufkin and Harrison Sapp, Pitmaster and Proprietor of Southern Soul BBQ and both co-founders of the Saint Simons Food and Spirits Festival.

Harrison serves as proprietor and pitmaster at St. Simons Island establishment Southern Soul Barbeque, which serves award-winning barbecue to locals and visitors from across the country. Harrison Sapp was born in Macon, Ga. and raised in Brunswick, Ga. After a series of local jobs in St. Simons and a brief resort stint in Hawaii, Sapp returned to St. Simons Island, where he began his climb the local restaurant industry ladder. Harrison quickly progressed from bus boy to bartender, then to chef and eventually manager of a slew of local restaurants. Sapp’s driving motivation in life is to make people happy through outstanding dining experiences, with particular focus on exceptional barbecue. In 2007, after a series of hugely successful barbecue pop-up dinners, Sapp and co-owner Griffin Bufkin opened Southern Soul Barbeque in a renovated gas station at the historic crossroads of St. Simons Island. As pitmaster, Harrison Sapp has led Southern Soul to acclaim from outlets such as Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, Huffington Post and more.

Dave Snyder - Halyards Restauarant & Tramici Neighborhood Italian

Owner/executive chef Halyard Restaurant Group, St. Simons Island, Georgia.

DaveFor Dave Snyder, the past twenty eight years have been filled with culinary pursuits from New England to his beloved South. Born and raised in Michigan, his unabashed passion for cooking began in high school and college at the University of Georgia when he quickly discovered a preference for the kitchen over the classroom.  Following graduation fromthe New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, hemoved to New York City, gaining experience and sharpening his skills at The Essex House, Zoe, Union Square Café, and The Mark while serving under top chefs who prided themselves on training the next generation of chefs. Heading south, Dave became executive chef at Azalea in Atlanta beforemoving to St Simons Island, Georgia as chef at J Mac’s. In 2000, he opened Halyards on St. Simons and, in 2006, opened Tramici. These two sister operations, along with Halyards Catering, comprise Halyard Restaurant Group.  His two restaurants, perennially ranked the Island’s and region’smost popular, enable Dave to share his love of hospitality, food, and how the two intertwine to creatememorable culinary experiences, including his bi-monthly cooking classes focusing on how great food enhances life. Drawing on his relationships with local fishermen and farmers, Dave demonstrates to eager guests how the best ingredientsmake a tremendous difference in the quality of the food, the sustainability of the environment and the financial strength of the local economy. He has worked with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association to improve the sustainability and health of the South Atlantic, the availability of local fish and the financial future and heritage of the fishing industry.  Dave recently self-published a cookbook and will soon bemarketing a housemade Marinara sauce from the recipe he created for Tramici. His other projects include plans to grow olives for producing extra virgin olive oil to serve at his restaurants.  Deeply devoted to community service, Dave serves on the Board of Directors at The Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Georgia and is an active supporter of local numerous area organizations including The St. Simons Land Trust, Cystic Fibrosis and The Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia. He is also involved in events and fundraisers at local schools where he hopes to inspire the next generation of chefs and restaurant leaders.  Dave is an avid angler, spending his free time fishing the waters in and around Georgia’s Golden Isles, frequently preparing and serving his fresh catches to delighted guests at his restaurants. He also loves to venture to Islamorada in the Florida Keys–his home away from home.

John Belechak - Palmer's Village Cafe

jbInspired by the culinary field for thirty years, Chef John Belechak has worked in many restaurant venues: country clubs, independent restaurants and high profile resorts. John studied under Chefs Bob Kinkaid and Ris La Coste at 21 Federal in Washington DC. Also during his time in DC, he worked with Restaurant Associates at The Roof Top Terrace in the Kennedy Center. Moving to Virginia Beach, VA, he became a sous chef at the Cavalier Country Club. A few years later when he moved to Atlanta, GA, he worked under Chefs Jamie Adams and John Carver for the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group at Veni Vidi Vici and Pricci’s. His transition to working at resorts includes spending 7 years at the prestigious and world renown Inn at Blackberry Farm, TN. During John’s tenure at Blackberry Farm he worked with Chef John Fleer. John started as sous chef and earned the rank of chef de cuisine. During his time at Blackberry Farm, the Inn earned five-star/five diamond accolades and consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top small hotels with three invitations to be featured in the James Beard House Foundation. Returning to Georgia, Chef John was part of the opening staff of The Lodge at Sea Island as a Sous Chef. During this time, the Lodge earned and received five-star/five-diamond recognition. John moved within the Sea Island Company and became garde manger chef for The Cloister and Sea Island Beach Club. Along with the garde manger chef position came the supervision of the butcher shop department and saucier department for the resort plus logistics of daily deliveries. Chef John Belechak was part of the culinary team for the G-8 International Summit in 2004. In 2011, Chef Belechak embraced the opportunity to open Palmer’s Village Café as Chef and General Manager. Palmer’s Village Café is located on St. Simons Island, GA. The menu at Palmer's, features seasonal foods and products, while walking the line between comfort food and haute cuisine.

Matthew Gray - The Public House


Matt Gray brings a wealth of world-class resort and restaurant experience to his leadership role as the guiding force behind Valor Hospitality's food and beverage operations to The Public House. Mr. Gray oversees menu and recipe creation, pricing, procurement, kitchen design and flow, staff recruitment and training and total cost controls across all disciplines. A graduate of Napier University in Scotland with a BA in Hospitality and Institutional Management, Mr. Gray began his career serving in Chef positions at some of Scotland's most well-known and respected hotels and country retreats, including the Greywalls Hotel, the Cromlix House and the Knockinaam Lodge. Subsequently, Mr. Gray worked at the world-famous Inverlochy Castle Hotel, Fort William, Scotland as Pastry Chef and Sous Chef, before being promoted to Executive Chef. Under Mr. Gray's direction, the hotel was awarded a Michelin Star rating for 9 consecutive years. Travel and Leisure rated Inverlochy as 'Best Hotel in Europe 2006' and voted 'Restaurant of the Year' by Decanter Magazine 2003. Mr. Gray was later recruited to the U.S. by world renowned French Chef, Albert Roux, to head up Chef Roux's first American restaurant, 'Chez Roux' at La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa in Houston Texas. Under Mr. Gray's leadership and direction, Chez Roux was voted 'Best New Restaurant in Houston 2009.

Jonathan Jerusalmy - Sea Island

Jonathan Jerusalmy

One of only 350 Master French Chefs in the world, Jonathan Jerusalmy has worked and traveled around the globe. With 19 years of experience in the kitchen, Jerusalmy has climbed the epicurean ladder, with a Bachelor of Arts in food service, wine technology and hospitality management in 1997 from the Institute Technique des Metiers de L'Alimentation in Tournai, Belgium. Early in his career, he completed several prominent internships at Michelin-rated restaurants in France, studying under Master Chef of France Paul Bocuse and Chef Gerard Boyer. Prior to joining Sea Island, Jerusalmy served as Executive Chef at St. Regis, Atlanta. His eclectic background includes stints as Executive Sous Chef and St. Regis Monarch Beach in California, Executive Banquet Chef and Executive Sous Cheff at Loess Miami Beach Hotel in Florida, and Chef de Partie at Hubert Keller's Fleur de Lys. As Resort Executive Chef and Director of Culinary at Sea Island, Jerusalmy is responsible for overseeing the concept and design of restaurant menus, hiring and development of restaurant staff, and ensurung that performance in all venues are consistent with Sea Island's dedication to genuine hospitality and true five-star service.

Celebrity Pitmasters:

 Jonathan & Justin Fox- Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, Atlanta, GA

FoxBrosBBQ 323x160

Growing up in Texas, Jonathan and Justin Fox were inspired by the open sky, the Texas heat and the southern spice. With no professional training, the self-taught, identical twins developed a passion for cooking for friends and family. It wasn't until he moved to Atlanta in early 1998, that Jonathan became more serious about cooking; Justin followed shortly in 2000.

After scouring Atlanta for the perfect barbecue joint, the brothers decided to take matters into their own hands. Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q started as a friendly backyard gathering with plenty of friends eating good barbecue and listening to live music. The backyard get-together turned into cooking for over 250 people. In 2004 the brothers were introduced to Dan & Beau Nolen, and Mike Reeves of Smith's Olde Bar. The Fox brothers went from barbecuing in the backyard, to cooking seven days a week at Smith's and catering various events all over town. In 2005 Jonathan was laid off from his corporate job. This was far from a setback, as catering, alone, had become a full-time job. While serving at Smith's Olde Bar, the Fox brothers began to receive a lot of local press. They were even announced as runner up for “Best Overall Bar-B-Q” in the city of Atlanta, by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. With continuing success at SmithÂ’s Olde Bar, the brothers teamed up with Reeves and the Nolen's to take the barbecue business to the next level.

Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q opened their Dekalb Avenue restaurant in August 2007. With a loyal following already built up, the restaurant thrived in the Candler Park neighborhood. In August 2012, disaster struck when a 100-year-old tree fell on top of the restaurant's two main dining rooms. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Jonathan and Justin were overwhelmed by the support from community and it was with that help, they were able to clean up, and reopen in less than 48 hours. With that same determination, the Fox brothers set to embark on a second round of construction to improve the restaurant. The renovations brought more bar and upgraded patio space, and restored the indoor seating capacity they once had.

Today Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q has become not only an Atlanta staple but a southeastern staple, with features on Good Day Atlanta, CBS Better Mornings, Fox News, The Weather Channel, TLC, HGTV, and The Food Network.

 Carey Bringle- Peg Leg Porker, Nashville, TN

Carey Bringle Head Shot 400 400x600

As a Nashville native, with deep-seated roots in the West Tennessee BBQ culture, I developed an appreciation for Que at a young age. My family settled in Covington, TN in 1827. To say that my family had a passion for BBQ is an understatement. My Grandfather, Dr. Carey Bringle Sr., grew up in Covington, TN cooking hogs and as an adult, delivered the children of many of the BBQ families in West Tennessee. I grew up going to Bozo’s, Lewis’s Store and Leonard’s, all West Tennessee icons. There was no getting around it. Smoke was in my veins.

I was groomed for competitive barbecuing by my uncle, Bruce, who competed in the very first Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. I have now been cooking in the Super bowl of Swine for over 25 years and with my former team Hog Wild, took 2nd place on three separate occasions.

If you’re wondering about the name of my company, well that’s a funny story…depending on how you look at it. At age 17 my life changed. I was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma an aggressive bone cancer. I went through 8 months of intensive Chemo Therapy and lost my right leg. After winning a hard-fought battle with the overwhelming support of my friends and family, I emerged with a new perspective and renewed outlook on life, realizing that every day brought a new adventure, opportunity for new experiences, and most importantly, a chance to eat more great food. It is this zest for life, positive attitude and sense of humor that I share with you in my signature “Peg Leg Porker” brand of sauces and rubs. I hope that you find the label as funny as I do and the taste something that will keep you coming back for more.

In 2013, my restaurant, Peg Leg Porker, was named one of the 16 hottest BBQ Joints in the country by Eater National. The restaurant was also on the Nashville Hot List for 8 months in a row. In 2014, Cooking with Paula Dean Magazine named the Peg Leg Porker one of the top 10 BBQ joints in the US.

Bryan Furman- B's Cracklin Barbeque, Savannah, GA


Only eight months after leaving his manufacturing job, Bryan Furman turned his love of barbecue into a very successful business. B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque immediately made waves in the Georgia barbecue scene by earning recognition after recognition. Despite Furman, at 34, only barbecuing about five years after beginning with a whole hog for his daughter’s first birthday party in 2010, he is serious about his commitment.

“To me, barbecue has more art and culinary to it than anything else… I wake up every morning at 3:30 a.m. and come in here and put my wood down and put in all this hard work. I don’t cut corners, you know. People are going to come here and they’re going to get quality food, they’re going to get good customer service, and I hope they’re going to really enjoy it. You take a lot of pride in it when someone just says something simple like, ‘Man, that was great barbecue. I really like your food.’ That’s just an awesome feeling.”

Southern Living magazine announced it had named B’s on its list of the South’s 50 top barbecue places and Charleston-based Garden & Gun has also written about Furman and his business. Furman’s commitment to “the old-fashioned way” has been a large reason why so much recognition is being pulled his way. He cooks locally grown meats — including hogs and chickens — over hickory and cherry coals in a large brick pit.

“The coarsely chopped pork and slow-smoked chicken are both excellent, but best of all are the ribs, which have superb wood-smoke flavor in each perfectly textured bite,”… “Order some cracklin’ cornbread to go alongside: round like a thick pancake with fresh corn flavor, it has great chewy bits of cracklins (pork skin) mixed right in.” –Southern Living

 Aaron Siegel, Taylor Garrigan & Madison Ruckel - Home Team BBQ


An Atlanta native and a graduate of the University of Georgia, Aaron “Fiery Ron” Siegel moved to NYC after college to follow his passion for cooking and attend The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. After completing an internship at Atlanta’s Nava under acclaimed Chef Kevin Rathbun, he graduated with his culinary degree and moved to Aspen, Colo. There, Aaron worked as a sous chef at two of the most popular high-end restaurants — Pinion’s and Cache Cache — and became intrigued with the idea of combining traditional processes and techniques of classical cuisine with the simplicity of comfort food, BBQ, and Southern fare. He returned to the South and was hired by the Hospitality Management Group Inc. (HMGI) as the Executive Chef at Blossom Café in downtown Charleston where he worked for several years. Aaron worked closely with Executive Chef Craig Diehl at sister restaurant Cypress where he learned more about smoking meats and developing a charcuterie program. During this time, he began to scout locations for his barbeque concept and in 2006, together with partners Taylor Garrigan, Tony McKie, and Madison Ruckel opened Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ in West Ashley. An instant success, Home Team BBQ expanded with a location on Sullivan’s Island in 2009 with partners and Sean Daniher and will open a third spot later this year in downtown Charleston.

After a stint at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Taylor Garrigan wanted to change career paths. In 1998, he began cooking with his brother chef Todd Garrigan and executive chef and owner Harold Marmelstein at Dick & Harry’s in Atlanta. He moved to Colorado to work a ski season in Crested Butte before deciding to take his cooking skills to the next level. He moved to Charleston, and enrolled at Johnson & Wales University. During this time, he worked as a line cook at Magnolias and then worked at Middleton Plantation. After graduating with a degree in hotel and restaurant management, he was hired at The Beach Club at Kiawah Island as a cook and worked with chefs including Paul Tensly and Tom Colicchio. In 2005, he was hired as a cook at FIG to work under renowned chef, Mike Lata. Taylor and Aaron met, became great friends, and together worked on the concept for Home Team BBQ. Once open, Taylor served as the sous chef at West Ashley and then moved to Sullivan’s Island as Executive Chef when first opened. He has worked his way up quickly to Executive Chef/Partner over all Home Team BBQ restaurants. In June 2015, Taylor won Episode 13 of Season 23 of Food Network’s Chopped.

madison 1


Madison Ruckel graduated from Johnson & Wales University in 1999, but moved back to his native Florida to work with his family in real estate. Within a year he yearned to be back in Charleston. He worked at a few restaurants before he was hired to work at Home Team BBQ West Ashley. Madison started before the restaurant opened their first location in 2006 and has been there ever since.



Davis Love III Cook'N Team

Smaller OPENING SHOT Davis love for ssfsf